August 2009 | Vol. VIII - No. 8
Out With Electronics, In With Classics
How Specialty Promotes Basic Toys and Games Over Circuit Sensations
In a world of gadgets and technology, many specialty toy-store owners stick to non-electronic products to stock their shelves and please their customers. While a few items, such as Radica's 20Q and remote-controlled vehicles from Kid Galaxy, win space on retailer's shelves, the majority of 47 stores in a June 2009 poll concerning electronics sales told TDmonthly Magazine they try to stay away from batteries and circuits.
Some storeowners said these items simply don't fit with their businesses.
"Electronic toys are widely available elsewhere, so I choose to buy things that are not so widely available and things that I think are, in the long run, better for the child's education and creativity,” explained Janet Gregory, owner of Over the Rainbow Toy Store in Anchorage, Alaska.
“Most people realize I'm not in that business, so they don't ask,” stated Deran Muckjian, owner of Catch a Falling Star in Lexington, Mass.
But whether customers are asking or not, high-tech items are in high demand for kids and teens.
“We don't do electronics, but when someone asks for them we try to show them something else — other toys or games that might be interesting to the child. But if they want video games, we just can't usually compete,” Greg Larson, owner of Larson's Toys and Games in Columbus, Ohio, told TDmonthly.
Here are some suggestions for alternatives to electronics from retailers around the country, aiming to interest customers who are shopping for the bells and whistles.
Family Games. Fifteen of 47 specialty retailers told TDmonthly they usually steer shoppers toward board games as an alternative to popular electronic toys. “They have much better replay value than most video and electronic games at a similar price. They also have the added bonus of being something the entire family can do, which is a rare thing in this day and age,” said Dean Nelson, owner of Wizard Kids Toys in Toledo, Ohio.
Science Kits. Children interested in technology may also get hooked on other kinds of complex, interactive activities. Some science kits even revolve around the technologies they're putting on wish lists. “What we usually recommend is something more dynamic or interactive, rather than a passive electric toy. More like science experiment kits,” said Genevieve Collonge, manager of The Wooden Horse in Los Gatos, Calif.
Brain Teasers. If customers are looking for something that will occupy a child even when there aren't siblings, friends or other family members to play with them, single-player games and brain-teaser puzzles can do the trick. “I recommend single-player games such as Rush Hour [from Think Fun],” said Angel Stahl, owner of Angel's Toy Barn in Greensburg, Pa.
Classics. Sometimes, parents and relatives are glad to be guided to something that doesn't require batteries or tech support. “Often, it's grandparents calling for an electronic gift item that's on a list, and they're usually very happy to go with alternate suggestions that I make,” Charles Bonner, owner of Heights Toy Center in Little Rock, Ark., told TDmonthly.
Most of all, expressed some storeowners, it’s important to get to know your customer and the child in question.
“We go through the same customer service for anyone else: find out the child's age, gender, interests, and then find an appropriate gift,” said Kay Steen, owner of Wingdoodle in Warner, N.H.
For more on making sales through a category you may not stock, see “Turning Electronic Appeals Into Specialty Deals.”
See the items mentioned in the article below, along with some other family games and science kits to check out:
This "mind-reading" game is a step up from the original 20Q, with enhanced accuracy and a screen that's simpler to read. It even gives players to opportunity to change their answers, as they challenge 20Q to guess what's they're thinking. The game requires 2 AAA batteries.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22091 (added 1/13/2009)
With sleek lines and aggressive styling, the Morphibians Rover is ready to take on any terrain — pond or bath, carpet or lawn — with its heavy duty tire tread and amphibious vehicle technology. The vehicle takes three AA batteries, the controller takes two AAA batteries, and the Rover runs at a 27MHz frequency. Other Morphibians are available at 49MHz in order to accommodate two vehicles being driven at the same time.
— “Our best-selling gift for boys is probably the Morphibians from Kid Galaxy, especially if a dad is shopping,” said Janet Gregory, owner of Over the Rainbow Toy Store in Anchorage, Alaska, in June 2009.
— “Kid Galaxy's Morphibians have sold well for almost two years straight,” Joe Berardoni, owner of Pun's Toy Shop in Bryn Mawr, Pa., told TDmonthly in summer 2009.
— Of 47 retailers, four listed Morphibians as the top-selling gift for boys in early summer 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 24713 (added 7/21/2009)
A winner of 20 awards, Rush Hour continues to be one of ThinkFun’s most popular and renowned mind-challenging games. In honor of Rush Hour’s 10 years of success, ThinkFun is celebrating with a Deluxe Edition that is guaranteed to delight seasoned Rush Hour fans and newcomers alike. Just like the traditional game, the object is to put problem-solving skills in gear to help the red car escape the traffic jam. But Rush Hour Deluxe Edition has been revved-up for maximum performance, featuring 60 of ThinkFun’s best challenges and an exciting new level of play. It comes complete with a modern design, 15 bright metallic cars and a collector’s gift box for easy travel. Launch date: Summer 2006.
— When surveyed about his best-selling puzzles in a Summer 2011 survey, Joe Berardoni, owner of Pun's Toys in Bryn Mawr, Pa., said he sells between 5 and 7 Rush Hours puzzles each month.
— As of 7/12/2011 this product had 4.3 out of 5 stars from 19 reviews on Amazon.com. Pros: Helps build problem solving skills; great for travel or quiet time. Cons: Two reviewers said that the Deluxe Edition was disappointing, as it actually has less features than the original game.
— Kids caught in traffic love to pull out this game and find their way out of the crunch. Rush Hour makes a great travel toy, specialty retailers have told TDmonthly, and it's been a top seller in their stores for more than 10 years. For these reasons, we gave it our TDmonthly Classic Toy 2007 award.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 10158 (added 11/20/2006)
The Tornado Tube is a fun and educational toy! Create a tornado in a bottle and watch the the whirling vortex! Add colored water and glitter and enjoy both creative and educational play. Made in the USA.
— Mary Porter Green, owner of Curiosity Zone in Ashburn, Va., told TDmonthly in a March 2013 survey that they sell "dozens and dozens" of Tornado Tubes each month.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 24685 (added 7/20/2009)
Kids can make three free-standing snowmen with this kit, which includes four types of polymers, a tray, whimsical instructions and information, and more. "This kit contains everything needed to make multitudes of snow-related items, and is completely made in the United States," Alicia Borley, PR manager for DuneCraft, told TDmonthly. Launch date: February 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 24359 (added 6/29/2009)
2-Player Perpetual Commotion is the original Perpetual Commotion specially designed for two-player speed and excitement. Play as many cards as you can into a center Arena to earn points. Gain extra points by being the first to empty your Feeders pile—but watch out! A single roll of the eight-sided die can change your score.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 24146 (added 6/17/2009)
Wild Science™ Worm Farm by INTERNATIONAL PLAYTHINGS LLC
Other products from INTERNATIONAL PLAYTHINGS LLC
With the Worm Farm, kids can discover the abilities of worms and their importance in the ecosystem through a series of safe and humane experiences using real worms. This kit features a high-quality, large-volume worm colony that allows children to plant seeds and grow vegetation in soil strata that is separated by colored sand horizons — great for tracking worm activity. The farm also contains removable privacy screens to bring worm tunnels into closer view. "The Wild Science kits are constructed of the highest quality materials and designed for extended play use. Each individual kit can be designed, customized and modified to an individual child’s liking. In addition, all of the kits within the system are designed to be interconnected, providing kids and creatures with endless possibilities to explore, learn and grow," Vickie Cullen, PR account executive for International Playthings, told TDmonthly. Launch date: June 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 24338 (added 6/29/2009)
In this game, the players all help farm dog Harley find and bring back home as many of their favorite things as possible. Harley will have to look out for fellow prowlers, such as the bear, raccoon, skunk, porcupine and nasty briar Patches, and it might be necessary to call in the vet. The game includes a 12" x 12" board, rules for easy and hard games, a dog house card, favorite things tokens, a bark and sniff card, and a Harley mover. "Players work together to help the old dog, Harley, out of a variety of problems. This is a game of sharing and helping eachother," Jim Deacove, president of Family Pastimes, told TDmonthly. Launch date: April 27, 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23508 (added 4/28/2009)
These kits are designed to offer everything kids need to learn about the basics of robotic science while constructing fun machines. There are four styles: Robotic Bird, Robotic Ball Collector, Robotic Bubble Blower and Robotic Beeper. All parts snap together with easy to follow instructions. Each kit requires 2 AA batteries, not included. Launch date: 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23705 (added 5/19/2009)
The Dangerous Book for Boys: Electronics by THAMES & KOSMOS
Other products from THAMES & KOSMOS
The Dangerous Book for Boys: Electronics presents information on electronics every child should know through fun, engaging, and impressive experiments and activities. Children ages eight and up learn how to construct simple electronic toys, such as a joy buzzer and insect. It comes with a 32-page, full-color experiment manual and retails for $35.95. Launch date: Fall 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23130 (added 3/31/2009)
Players take turns placing their tiles in the correct sequence, racing to get rid of them in this fast-moving game. The game can have unexpected turns as special tiles let players change direction, give tiles to opponents, skip opponents, or play wild cards. The game includes 106 high-quality tiles and four holding racks. Launch date: 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23845 (added 5/22/2009)
Think-ets Deluxe contains a distinctive assortment of 30 miniature trinkets specially selected for storytelling and imaginative play. Individuals can use them to play 10 different games, including the following: What’s Missing? (fun memory game); What’s Your Story? (hilarious storytelling game); Who’s Last? (challenging strategy game); What’s Moved? (keen observation game); and What’s Similar? (mind-bending categorization game). It is ideal for travel and use in restaurants. Think-ets Deluxe is the larger version of the Original award-winning Think-ets game. It "has enormous play value for open-ended play using miniature items for storytelling," CEO Randy Compton of Think-a-lot Toys told TDmonthly. Launch date: September 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23204 (added 4/9/2009)
Global warming — the steady increase in Earth’s air and ocean temperatures since the mid-20th century — is one of the most discussed and studied topics in the scientific community today. This kit introduces you to Earth’s climate and the issue of global warming with 23 hands-on experiments. This kit gives you the basic knowledge you need to understand the climate, why it changes, and how our actions affect it.
— “Science and robotics are extremely popular,” said Dean Nelson, owner of Wizard Kids Toys in Toledo, Ohio, who told TDmonthly in June 2009 that Thames & Kosmos is one of his top-selling lines for boys.
— Two of 47 storeowners said Thames & Kosmos account for their top sales in boys' items during a summer 2009 survey.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22836 (added 3/18/2009)
The Golden Dragon has been discovered and ninja players must be the first to reach its location. To move throughout the game, players roll one of two sets of dice and solve the number challenge rolled. The skill level of each player determines which set of dice that ninja will use. To win the game, ninjas will solve four word challenges. While moving throughout the lands, other ninjas will try to trap opponents and block their way to the Golden Dragon. "Players will be having so much fun they won't realize they may actually be reinforcing their math skills while playing," Tami Murphy, marketing manager of The Haywire Group, told TDmonthly. Launch date: July 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23105 (added 3/31/2009)
The Gryphon Games Bookshelf Series is a numbered collection of book-size games that will appeal to a wide array of players of all ages. The games in this series are of medium-weight strategy, featuring short, clear rules playable in under an hour. The first thing you’ll notice about the Gryphon Games Bookshelf Series is our emphasis on high-quality art and superior graphics and production values. The game play is always snappy and innovative. The themes are fun and interesting. Catch people on their way back to board games with the Gryphon Games Bookshelf Series. Since we are committed to adding no fewer than three games a year to this collectible series, it is sure to be the talk of the gaming community for years to come.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22552 (added 2/20/2009)
Jewel Water Garden Starter Kit Eco-Aquarium by WILD CREATIONS
Other products from WILD CREATIONS
Part of the Wild Creations eco-aquarium line, this balanced ecosystem offers a low-maintenance way for children or adults to enjoy an aquarium environment. This starter kit comes with the Jewel Water Garden, a snail, two little frogs, food and care pack, and choice of base.
— Nine percent of 43 specialty retailers told TDmonthly Wild Creations’ Eco-Aquarium was a best seller in late spring 2010.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22597 (added 2/25/2009)
Think fast! What word means “a partially dried grape”? Be the first to say “raisin,” and you’re on your way to winning this riotous game of rapid word recall. Players take turns reading clues aloud, competing to blurt out the correct answer first and move ahead on the board. The first person or team to circle the board wins. Sounds simple, right? But as the race for the right word heats up, and the blurting gets boisterous, it’s easy to get tongue-tied! Blurt is a great vocabulary builder for kids, a hilarious addition to adult parties, and a must for family game night. Includes junior version for ages 7 to 9. For 3 to 12 players.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23789 (added 5/20/2009)
Including six different snap-together models, this kit provides children with examples of many uses for solar panel technology. A car, robot dog, hover boat, and other models spring to life when their solar panels are hit by direct sunlight, or the illumination of a 50 watt halogen bulb. Models are compact and light weight, making them easy to take outside and watch as the sun's rays are converted into clean electrical energy.
— Kate Tanner, owner of Kidstop Toys, informed TDmonthly that this was one of her favorite products at Toy Fair 2010.
— Lisa LeStrange, owner of Lucky Duck Toys in Wayne, Pa., told TDmonthly that this solar kit is a bestselling science toy. It's "not expensive. We just got it and it's selling well. It's a good product — you shine a flashlight on it and it goes," she said.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22536 (added 2/19/2009)
Made from the versatile, multi-experiment Snap Circuits that allow kids to safely and easily build real electronic projects, this kit features many of the latest innovations in alternative energy. Featuring a hand-crank dynamo, solar panel, and wind turbine, kids can light up an LED, power a clock, charge a rechargeable battery (included), run a small radio, and watch the created energy on an analog meter. Instructions for many other projects are included in the kit; can be integrated with other Snap Circuits sets. This product received a Dr. Toy Green Award. Launch Date: Fall 2009
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22499 (added 2/17/2009)
In this fast-paced educational game, up to four players draw seven tiles each and begin forming crosswords of numbers so that each grouping adds up to 22. For each 22 that's hit, a player yells "Ku-do" and selects more tiles so he or she always has seven. When the tiles are gone, players add up their points — one point per each 22 and extra points for use of the same number two or three times in the same equation. Tiles with colored numbers may be counted as positive or negative numbers, and players can use the dice to set number goals for the amount of rounds they wish to play. Launch date: February 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22671 (added 2/27/2009)
Imagine if a bakery merged with barber shop. What would you call the new business? Bread Heads? ... Cookie Cutters? ... How about Shave 'n Cream? Think up these and other creative answers in this hilarious party game where naming is the name of the game. Randomly select two different business cards and then try to come up with a clever name for their unlikely merger. If your name wins the most votes, you're the boss. Game includes 200 business cards, 8 write-erase boards, 8 write-erase markers, 8 voting wheels, 2 card stands, 1 sand timer, 1 score board and instructions. Launch date: March 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22647 (added 2/27/2009)
This deluxe game set come with seven monter-themed games. The three-tiered box includes Moody Monsters matching game, a 56-card deck of playing cards with four different game instructions, and a Mix & Match puzzle game. Moody Monsters features 15 different monsters, each addressing the social and emotional needs of children.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22580 (added 2/25/2009)
LOL! (which stands for Laugh Out Loud!) is a new, fresh and exciting game of Internet lingo that involves acronyms, shorthand and Web slang used in chat rooms, email and text and instant messaging. The goal is to be the first to yell out "'LOL!'" to give the answer to the net lingo. Launch date: February 15, 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22188 (added 1/23/2009)
As players take turns stacking their pieces on the seven wooden posts, the object is to get four in a row of their winning color or shape. Moves require extra strategy, though, as more than half of each player's pieces are the opponent's shape and can help their game. The game features wooden construction with a box to store all the pieces. It measures 12.25" L x 4.5" W x 4.5" H. Launch date: February 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22466 (added 2/15/2009)
Little mice need players' help to push their pieces of cheese into their mouse holes. But participants must watch out for the cat! To play the game, players try to flick a mouse token on the game board so it hits and propels one or more cheese tokens into a mouse hole. The first team of mice to get all its cheese through the mouse holes is the winner. This wooden game is made in Canada. Launch date: 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22213 (added 1/23/2009)
In this fast-paced card and dice game for the whole family, players take turns as the sushi chef by rolling four sushi dice. Other players then race to match sushi cards in their hand to the sushi that was rolled. The first to do so says "Order up!" and lays down his or her cards. Whoever gets the most sushi cards by the end of the game wins. Players can use Wild Wasabi to help, but must beware the dreaded Stinky Sushi card. "It is easy to play, and the whimsical theme keeps you coming back for another hand," Mike Richie, game developer for Mindtwister USA, told TDmonthly. Launch date: April 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22205 (added 1/23/2009)
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Writer's Bio: Marie Raven has a long history with the specialty toy industry as a family business. In addition to freelancing for TDmonthly Magazine, she writes creative and technical material for various other businesses. Read more articles by this author
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